Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SSI dinner with SC Aquarium at Circa 1886

Chef Marc Collins with Megan Westmeyer from S.C. Aquarium

Seared tuna steak with green tomato gazpacho

Yellowtail snapper sashimi

Fine dining and SSI combined for a great experience
         Circa 1886 is a platinum-sponsor of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SSI), which is administered by the South Carolina Aquarium. The monthly SSI dinner on Monday July 23 was sold out, as seafood enthusiasts gathered for a summertime celebration.
       Cordials were served using the new Harvest brand Vodka, and patrons were allowed to cool down after a sweltering hot afternoon. Some of the staff at Circa 1886 have been at their station for 10 years, and the service on this night was excellent.
        The first course offering was a thin sheet of Yellowtail Snapper Sashami, just a little thicker than what might just melt in your mouth. Served with garlic chili oil, pickled ginger espuma, cilantro salad, bean sprouts and toasted peanuts, the first course presentation was memorable and tasty.
Speaking before the second course of pickle-fried Carolina white shrimp, Chef Collins told diners that fresh local shrimp is the hallmark of the Holy City. His shrimp offering is prepared with dill from pickles and is fried in a bit of hot sauce. Chef Collins informed diners that the shrimp would not be hot, and he was right as the shrimp brought a warmth to the taste buds, but not a heat. Still, the Paco & Lola Albarino white wine helped to lessen any heat factor.
The third course seared tuna steak was served over a green tomato gazpacho. Westmeyer warned diners that while this fish was sustainable, sometimes the methods of gathering tuna are harmful. Specifically, long line vessels that leave their hooks set out for long periods can create unintended bycatch mortality. The tuna was consumed with an olive tapenade and a crispy foccacia bread, and washed down with Glattzer Gruner Veltliner, which proved to be an extra-dry white wine.
The main course consisted of Wreckfish Coq Au Vin, that was served over Carolina grits with Head of the Woods mushrooms. In full concert with the Chalone Pinot Noir, the highly-migratory wreckfish was delicious and the mushrooms were an excellent addition to the mix. Westmeyer revealed that wreckfish arrives into port at Cherry Point Seafood on Wadmalaw Island, allowing local chefs easy access.
The dessert course was daring in that it also incorporated seafood. Have you ever had vanilla and lobster panna cotta? Chef Collins’ final creation came shaped by cup-molds, and held the consistency of pudding, and brought a wow-factor to the final course. A final salute from Circa 1886 to patrons came in the form of Warre’s Otima tawny port wine.

To view this review on Guy Harvey magazine click here.

To view past blog entries on SSI click here.


  1. Thanks, Jeff for such a great account of Circa 1886's Sustainable Seafood Dinner.

  2. It was a great marriage of a worthy cause like SSI and seafood prepared by Chef Collins.


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